Beebe visits UAM, delivers big check

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe descended on Monticello Thursday morning and before making his exit less than an hour later he left the University of Arkansas at Monticello campus and the SEARK area in a much better place—technically speaking.

Beebe’s purpose for the visit was to announce the release of $635,000 from the state’s general improvement fund to construct four microwave relay towers  aimed at connecting the UAM Colleges of Technology campuses in Crossett and McGehee to the fiber network at UAM’s main campus in Monticello.

In addition to helping UAM’s faculty and student bodies inept to connecting and using the Internet, the towers will also benefit businesses and individuals in an approximate 20-mile radius from each tower in their ability to access a more reliable form of broadband connectivity.

“This is your money,” said Beebe after quickly being introduced to a capacity audience by UAM Chancellor Jack Lassiter in the Capital Room of the Gibson University Center. “I can think of no better way to spend it than on education and jobs.”

UAM’s Colleges of Technology have been fighting low capacity broadband for years and the outdated technology has “greatly hindered the utilization of Internet resources for instruction and learning.

“The current bandwidths on these campuses is being completely absorbed by the by faculty and staff in their normal work process,” said Lassiter. “And, the problem was we had no additional growth available through the current system.”

Bob Ware, vice chancellor of the McGehee campus agreed.

“Today is a good day,” he said as he took the podium after Lassiter. “The increased broadband access will allow our faculty the opportunity to do things they haven’t been able to do in regard to online instruction.”

Once the towers are in place, the technology campuses will have broadband service 13 times faster than they currently have. “This will not only benefit our campuses but also the local communities we serve,” said Lassiter. “The connectivity that will be available can be used to promote economic growth in southeast Arkansas.”

The new towers will also result in cost savings for both the Crossett and McGehee campuses. Both campuses were going to be forced to contract with outside sources to increase bandwidth, which would have resulted in a significant increase in monthly service cost. “The annual savings for the Crossett campus alone will be approximately $40,000,” said Lassiter.  “The project will hopefully begin early in 2014 and should be totally operational by the start of the fall 2014 semester.”

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